Oliver Solberg has retired from the Monte Carlo Rally on the road section after Sunday morning’s opening stage which was won by Sébastien Loeb.
Solberg was running just inside the top 50 after a fraught weekend which included intercom issues but most pertinently, fuel fumes were making the way into the cockpit of his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 and causing him significant problems.
The 20-year-old went off the road and down the bank, losing half an hour in the process, on Saturday and believed the smoke was what caused him to lose concentration.
Solberg insinuated to DirtFish that he wanted to retire from the rally, because “it’s not healthy”, on Saturday afternoon but he pressed on.
However Hyundai’s deputy team director Julien Moncet hinted to DirtFish on Saturday night that a decision on retirement would be made at the start of Sunday.
Solberg didn’t complain of any smoke at stage-end on SS14, instead making a relatively unexplained comment about his pacenotes, but he was confirmed as a retiree after the stage.
A statement from the team confirmed: “The crew and the team agreed to retire as Oliver and Elliott [Edmondson] are not feeling well due to the fumes that they experienced in the car in the past days.”
Moncet added to DirtFish: “After the issues we’ve had over the last few days with the fumes, the crew was not feeling well today and we decided together with them to stop there.
“I think it was not reasonable to continue like that. We have improved quite a lot [the problem] but still it remained from the past days. It was safer to stop him anyway.”
Out front, Loeb pinched 1.1 seconds from Sébastien Ogier but that did little to alter the competitive picture as Ogier still leads the rally by 20s.
Loeb said: “I had a good stage, tried to keep a good rhythm, nothing more.”
Ogier commented: “Really good start, it was just a clean stage. I didn’t push too much but so far it’s enough.”
Craig Breen and Kalle Rovanperä remain third and fourth, and were third and fourth fastest on the stage too. But there remains the possibility that M-Sport could swap Breen and Loeb round as Loeb isn’t contesting a full season.
Elfyn Evans began the day in 26th overall following his off-road antics on Saturday morning, meaning powerstage bonus points later on Sunday remained the only key target to aim for.
That meant his pace was, comparatively speaking, sedate and he admitted he was cautious in order to protect his rubber for the points-paying test.
“Yeah exactly,” Evans said when asked if the powerstage was his target, “there’s a lot of cutting in here so just tried to be ultra-safe on that side, so that’s it really.”
Thierry Neuville is lying in the points in sixth but was another to admit his tactic “was about saving tires”, running a crossed pattern of two softs and two super-softs in order to save two new softs for the powerstage later.
Takamoto Katsuta has a recovery mission to break back into the top 10, starting the day just over a minute shy of WRC2’s Yohan Rossel who currently holds the position.
Gus Greensmith is fifth on the Monte after simply trying to survive Saturday with an engine issue.
The M-Sport driver revealed “everything feels fine” at the start of Sunday and he set the fifth fastest time.
1 Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 11m27.9s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) +1.1s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +2.0s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +3.4s
5 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +10.6s
6 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +11.8s
Leading positions after SS14
1 Ogier/Veillas (Toyota) 2h31m12.1s
2 Loeb/Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) +20.0s
3 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +1m26.9s
4 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +2m06.1s
5 Greensmith/Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +6m43.3s
6 Neuville/Waydaeghe (Hyundai) +7m54.8s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +10m10.0s
8 Erik Cais/Petr Tesínský (M-Sport Ford) +10m44.3s
9 Gregoire Munster/Louis Louka (Hyundai) +11m24.0s
10 Yohan Rossel/Benjamin Boulloud (Citroën) +11m50.9s